Advanced Math/Science Research Update
by Dr. April Burch, Director of the AMSR program
January 15, 2013
Since our last update, Berkshire School hosted student researchers from Belmont Hill, and all-boys prep school outside of Boston, for a 1-day mini-symposium on Student Biomedical Research. The goal was to foster collaboration, communication and community outreach with our students. AMSR students Liza Bernstein '13, Sissi Wang '13, Lars Robinson '13, Elsie Guevara '13, Ernest Yue '13, and Nate MacKenzie '14, gave short talks about their work in the new Bellas/Dixon Math and Science lecture hall. The talks were followed up by break-out sessions where Belmont Hill students described their research projects and students discussed commonalities between the projects and future goals.
The second semester of AMSR started with some terrific news. The AMSR program was awarded a grant from The Chinchester Dupont Foundation for the purchase of an EVOS fluorescence microscope. This piece of equipment will expand the types of experiments and analyses that can be done by AMSR students this and future years. The microscope should arrive shortly, and Dr. Burch has invited everyone to stop in for a look next time they are on campus.
One new, exciting project that is underway in the winter season of AMSR in the afternoons is being spearheaded by Elif Kesaf '14. Elif is from Turkey and seeks to identify novel viruses of non-pathogenic strains of Legionella bacterium from travertines in Pamukkale. In collaboration with Dr. Sunny Shin at the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, she will be working to isolate viruses of this bacterium with the hope of identifying new agents to combat Legionnaires' disease caused by a pathogenic form of Legionella.
Look for more news from Dr. Burch in the next issue!
Independent Study Profile: Moritz Grosser '11
Reform of the U.S. healthcare system has largely defined Barack Obama’s first two years as president. His Affordable Care Act (2010) is also the focus of an independent study by Moritz Grosser ’11 from Frankfurt, Germany, who is exploring constitutional arguments for and against the law.
After completing Constitutional Law in first semester, Moritz, who hopes to study law after he graduates from college, was energized to explore specific examples of Supreme Court cases that address federal law versus state law. With the help of his faculty advisor, Wil Smith, who earned his law degree at the University of Maine, Moritz narrowed his topic to President Obama’s healthcare plan, which is currently being challenged in a number of state courts.
“I started by looking at what the arguments against Obama’s plan are based on. One contention is that the federal government is violating the Constitution because it is interfering with state commerce,” Moritz explains. Initially, he reviewed various articles of the Constitution, including the Commerce Clause (giving power to the federal government to regulate foreign and interstate commerce), the Elastic Clause (empowering the government to create any law deemed proper to carry out constitutional duties), and related aspects of the 10th Amendment. “Mr. Smith showed me how to gain access to case briefings and summaries, and he steered me to various books—one on the Bill of Rights, one of his books from law school.”
After researching the law, Moritz also researched the arguments against it. He looked at precedent cases that have been decided in the courts. “Approximately nineteen states are challenging the law, and if more states join, theoretically the challenge can become a class action case,” Moritz says. “If enough states join, it could go to the Supreme Court for a final decision.”
Moritz’s goal for his project in Advanced Constitutional Law is to write a legal opinion paper and present it in an oral argument to a panel including Mr. Gulotta (his first-semester teacher) and another faculty member. He has gathered his thoughts into bullet-point arguments, and he is beginning to craft an opinion paper, a common method for lawyers to advise a client or to express a legal opinion. “It’s one thing to write it and another to present it. Mr. Smith says that I have to show that I’m on top of my game in my oral presentation: the panel will ask me questions to try to find holes in my argument.” To prepare him for both the writing and presentation, Moritz has already gone through a similar process with Mr. Smith. “There have been days when I came into his office and said, ‘Here’s my point on this,’ and he said, ‘Let’s think about it again.’ He broke my argument down and helped me re-think it.”
What draws Moritz to law? Back in Germany, he had an internship in a law firm that deals with private equity, a lot of contracting work, and he says “I could see myself in my own practice. There are so many things you can do with law: I can see myself working for the U.N. because most ambassadors have a law degree or political science degree, I can see myself working on international law, trying to bridge borders.”
Mr. Smith commends Moritz on his work this semester. “It has been a delight to work with Moritz, as he has demonstrated an excellent grasp of the constitutional questions and legal procedures associated with challenging a federal law such as President Obama's Health Care Bill. More importantly, through this process, Moritz had an opportunity to experience the personal challenge of grappling with a professional dilemma that many practicing attorneys face on a daily basis: How does one work to build the strongest legal argument in the best interest of a client when the client's interest may be contrary to one's own political or moral beliefs? . . . I believe this independent study is the first of many legal opinion letters in Moritz's future. He will make a fine lawyer someday.”